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up his eyes to heaven, and, with the words which I have now read, began that solemn prayer of intercession for the church, which closed his ministry. Immediately after, he went forth with his disciples into the garden of Gethsemane, and surrendered himself to those who came to apprehend him.
Such was the situation of our Lord at the time of his pronouncing these words. He saw his mission on the point of being accomplished. He had the prospect full before him, of all that he was about to suffer_Father! the hour is come.What hour? An hour the most critical, the most pregnant with great events, since hours had begun to be numbered, since time had begun to run. It was the hour in which the Son of God was to terminate the labours of his important life, by a death still more important and illustrious; the hour of atoning, by his sufferings, for the guilt of mankind; the hour of accomplishing prophecies, types, and symbols, which had been carried on through a series of ages; hour of concluding the old, and of introducing to the world the new dispensation of religion; the hour of his triumphing over the world, and death, and hell; the hour of his erecting that spiritual kingdom which is to last for ever.
Such is the hour, such are the
events, which you are to commemorate in the sacrament of our Lord's Supper. I shall attempt to set them before you as proper subjects, at this time, of
devout meditation. To display them in their genuine majesty, is beyond the ability of man.
the exe* John, xix, 26, 27.
I. This was the hour in which Christ was glorified by his sufferings. The whole of his life had discovered much real greatness, under a mean appearance. Through the cloud of his humiliation, his native lustre often broke forth ; but never did it shine so bright, as in this last, this trying hour. It was indeed the hour of distress, and of blood. He knew it to be such ; and when he uttered the words of the Text, he had before his eyes, cutioner and the cross, the scourge, the nails, and the spear. But by prospects of this nature his soul was not to be overcome. It is distress which ennobles every great character; and distress was to glorify the Son of God. He was now to teach all mankind, by his example, how to suffer and to die. He was to stand forth before his enemies, as the faithful witness of the truth ; justifying by his behaviour the character which he assumed, and sealing with his blood the doctrine which he taught.
What magnanimity in all his words and actions on this great occasion! The court of Herod, the judgement-hall of Pilate, the hill of Calvary, were so many theatres prepared for his displaying all the virtues of a constant and patient mind. When led forth to suffer, the first voice which we hear from him, is a generous lamentation over the fate of his unfortunatė, though guilty, country; and, to the last moment of his life, we behold him in possession of the same gentle and benevolent spirit. No upbraiding, no complaining expression escaped from his lips, during the long and painful approaches of a cruel death. He betrayed no symptom of a weak or a vul. gar, of a discomposed or impatient mind. With the utmost attention of filial tenderness, he committed his aged mother to the care of his beloved disciple. With all the dignity of a sovereign, he conferred pardon on a penitent fellow-sufferer. With a greatness of mind beyond example, he spent his last moments in apologies and prayers for those who were shedding his blood.
By wonders in heaven, and wonders on earth, was this hour distinguished. All națure seemed to feel it; and the dead and the living bore witness to its importance. The vail of the temple was rent in twain. The earth shook. There was darkness over all the land. The graves were opened, and many who slept arose, and went into the Holy City. Nor were these the only prodigies of this awful hour. The most hardened hearts were subdued and changed. The judge who, in order to gratify the multitude, passed sentence against him, publicly attested his innocence.
The Roman centurion, who presided at the execution, glorified God, and acknowledged the sufferer to be more than man. After he saw the things which had passed, he said, Certainly this was a righteous person ; truly this was the Son of God. The Jewish malefactor who was crucified with him, addressed him as a King, and implored his fa
Even the crowd of insensible spectators, who had come forth as to a common spectacle, and who began with clamours and insults, returned home smiting their breasts.Look back on the heroes, the philosophers, the legislators of old. View them in their last moments. Recall
circumstance which distinguished their departure from the world. Where can you find such an assemblage of high virtues, and of great events, as concurred at the death of Christ? Where so
close : Insupportable the burden of afflictions, under which we were oppressed by a load not only of present, but of an anticipated sorrow. Friends would begin their union, with lamenting the day which was to dissolve it; and, with weeping eyes, the parent would every moment behold the child whom he knew that he was to lose. In short, as soon as that
mysterious veil, which now covers futurity, was lifted
up, all the gaiety of life would disappear; its flattering hopes, its pleasing illusions, would vanish ; and nothing but its vanity and sadness remain. The foresight of the hour of death would continually interrupt the course of human affairs; and the overwhelming prospect of the future, instead of exciting men to proper activity, would render them immoveable with consternation and dismay.--How much more friendly to man is that mixture of knowledge and ignorance which is allotted to him in this state! Ignorant of the events which are to befall us, and of the precise term which is to conclude our life, by this ignorance our enjoyment of present objects is favoured; and knowing that death is certain, and that human affairs are full of change, by this knowledge our attachment to those objects is moderated, Precisely in the same manner, as by the mixture of evidence and obscurity which remains